Jewellery Store Armed Robbers Sentenced
16th June 2016
Eleven members of a gang which carried out armed robberies around the country, including two in jewellers' shops in Cleveland, have been sentenced today. They received a combined prison sentence of over 100 years.
Cleveland Police's Organised Crime Unit (OCU) launched Operation Tetra, after armed robberies took place at Market Jewellers stores in Yarm in November 2014 and in Middlesbrough in January 2015.
Other forces had arrested individual suspects among the 11 for isolated crimes however during the long and complex investigation, detectives and analysts from Cleveland Police's OCU linked all the suspects and began painstakingly checking hundreds of phone records, CCTV and other evidence in a bid to bring charges against them.
Acting Det Sgt Kim Burrell, who led the investigation said: "It became clear that these men made up a highly organised, well-resourced and extremely motivated gang. They were intent on making vast sums of money - and avoiding detection as they carried out crimes around the country.
"Our team's tenacity and determination to prove a link between the men and the crimes both here in Cleveland and elsewhere was supported by other forces, especially Greater Manchester Police and North Yorkshire Police.
"We made full use of technologies available to us, but good old-fashioned detective work played a massive part in bringing us to a point where we could arrest and charge our suspects. The strength of the evidence we had gathered meant the men had no choice but to plead or be found guilty and I am pleased to see substantial sentences handed out today.
"I'd like to thank members of the public who provided us with valuable information and I must also praise the staff of both jewellers' stores who had a terrifying ordeal. Nobody expects to go to work and be faced with a masked armed gang threatening violence against them. Some of the store staff remain badly affected by what happened and I hope today's sentencing will bring a degree of comfort to them and help them move forward.
"Cleveland Police's OCU is committed to protecting communities, and bringing to justice those who come to our area to commit crime. I would urge anyone with concerns or information about organised crime to contact Cleveland Police or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously."
Detective Chief Superintendent Peter McPhillips said: "This was a lengthy and extremely complex investigation by Cleveland Police's Organised Crime Unit which is a team of detectives committed to protecting our communities from organised crime.
"The investigation began after two armed robberies against Market Cross Jewellers where over £600, 000 of stock was taken.
"Shockingly these robberies took place in broad daylight and involved innocent members of the public and staff being threatened with violence and weapons. In the case of the Yarm incident, these weapons included axes and a handgun.
"Both robberies were meticulously planned by a well-resourced organised crime group which was operating across the country, intent on making vast sums of money and avoiding detection.
"Officers in Cleveland Police Organised Crime unit, led by Temporary Det Sgt Kim Burrell, left no stone unturned in their quest to bring those responsible to justice.
"As well as the usual use of technology throughout this investigation, it really was good old fashioned detective work and the team's dogged determination to identify and arrest those responsible which allowed us to bring 11 people before the courts.
"Other UK forces arrested individual members of the group for a variety of offences however it is to Kim and her team's credit that Cleveland Police was the first force in the country to disrupt the organised crime group which we see sentenced today.
"This complex investigation was greatly assisted by the work of our analysts. As a result of the strength of evidence against them, ten people entered early guilty pleas, another defendant was found guilty following a two week trial.
"We also liaised with the prison service and a number of UK forces throughout our investigation and their tenacity and hard work throughout the operation is greatly appreciated - special thanks are due to our colleagues at Greater Manchester Police for their input and assistance.
"I must also pay tribute to the staff at both jewellers - no-one carrying out their normal work duties should have to undergo such a traumatic and terrifying ordeal.
"Staff showed great bravery in the immediate aftermath of the robberies and as the investigation progressed and the help they gave police was invaluable.
"Some of them were badly affected by what happened and I hope today's sentences will reassure them that the people responsible face a lengthy time behind bars.
"Members of the public who witnessed the robberies also played a vital role in helping police and there was great support and a general will to see people caught for the crimes. Every piece of information they provided really helped the team build up the bigger picture and ultimately secure convictions.
"The significant sentences handed out today reinforce my message to those thinking of travelling to our force area to commit crime - we will identify and arrest you and bring you before the courts where you will be dealt with.
"Finally I would urge anyone with suspicions or information about organised crime groups in their community to contact Cleveland Police or the independent charity Crimestoppers."
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